The rain added magic to the open landscape, clouds hanging low as we hiked through fields and gradually ascended into the mountains. The plants were drinking in the rain. Around mid-day we came upon our first thru-hiker, Slingblade from Arkansas. Only a few hikers were brave enough to be out. Most were huddled up inside.
But not us. We walked through a brushy, rocky landscape, stopping just shy of a famed place called Mike's. Neither of us really wanted to go there; it was rumored to be a party place, and that wasn't what we were out here to do. Instead, we stopped early near some boulders after 15.5 miles of hiking, not a bad total for starting later in the day. As we set up camp, Slingblade and a trio of hikers trudged by, bound for Mike's. We never saw them again, as they were probably pulled into the vortex.
|First night's camp. The NEMO tent did great in the rain.|
In the distance we could see the town of Anza and hear dogs barking from remote compounds. Who were these people, and what did they do all day? Perhaps it was better not to know. After hiking a little over 19 miles, we pulled in to a set of large boulders for the night, soon joined by Wing It, who revealed he had been in Iraq and Afghanistan and was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next, and another man we had secretly dubbed "Flying Nun" for the way his hat flapped in the breeze. Although, I mused, as we climbed out of Nance Canyon there had clearly been someone else hiking with Flying Nun. What had happened to her? Did he push her off a cliff? Did they get a trail divorce? So many mysteries on this trail.
|House in the middle of nowhere, after the climb out of Nance Canyon.|
|Second night's camp|
In the distance the coyotes howled. We knew the next day would be a test of our experience and our patience: 100% of rain and an untested alternate route due to a fire closure. Since most "thru" hikers are skipping the alternate (yet still calling themselves thru-hikers), there was not much information on this. We could only hope for the best. In retrospect, it was better that we didn't know what lay ahead.
To be continued...